Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Barbecue and rockets

With guests visiting from out of town this weekend, decisions had to be made. Two mainly: where to take them and what to feed them.

You want it to be something sort of unique to the area. So for dinner Friday night, we hit up Greenbrier Barbecue, where they got to sample some Alabama White Barbecue Sauce as well as some of their still-the-best-I've-ever-had hush puppies.

As for something to do, well, that was a bit tougher. Especially after my offer to drive them by the gym where I once scored 26 points in a preseason rec league basketball game was shot down. But alas, we finally decided on the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Because like I always say, nothing says Alabama like barbecue and rockets.

The Space & Rocket Center is located adjacent to the Redstone Arsenal army base and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Outside, several rockets are on display, along with one of the space shuttles and various other phallic symbols, er, bastions of power and might. At night, they light up the Huntsville skyline. Heck, what am I saying, they are the Huntsville skyline.

(Ideally, there would be a picture here.)

Inside are various exhibits which tell the story of our history in space. Currently, there is a special exhibit commemorating the 100th birthday of Wernher Von Braun. I got pretty excited when part of the exhibit was simply an enlargement of his Wikipedia entry.

Now from what I understand, Von Braun was one of more than a hundred German scientists who were brought to America in the aftermath of World War II. He was first given a one-room apartment, which best I could tell, held little more than a desk, a bed, and may or may not have contained a nuclear warhead. Anyway, he went on to help develop the Saturn V Rocket which would be used to transport man to the moon. Allegedly.

Other items on display inside the Space & Rocket Center include one of the Apollo command modules, a mobile quarantine facility, a Gemini training simulator (again, pretend there are pictures), and a lunar rover -- which is cool, but would be so much more awesome if they'd let you ride around on it. Or even sit on it and pretend you're riding around (which FYI, they apparently frown upon). There's also astronaut food for sale. Freeze-dried ice cream sandwich. Bet that's tasty!

The Space & Rocket Center is also home to the U.S. Space Camp, where you can send your kids if you want to get rid of them for like two weeks, or you know, if they're interested in becoming an astronaut. Because apparently, a lot of kids are. I, personally, was not.

I remember going to the Space & Rocket Center when I was a kid. They had this little simulator of some sort that you could actually climb into. There were switches you could flip and they'd have some mock radio communications playing to make it sound like a real mission.

Well, I would never climb in.

Because I was always afraid that somehow someone had made a huge mistake, and as soon as I got in there the thing was gonna take off with me in it. And I'd be leaving the Earth. What do you think would happen then? I don't have any formal reentry training! I'd be stuck in outer space. Nooooo sir. You weren't gettin' me in that thing.

So, yeah, astronaut was never something I aspired to be. I was more of a fireman kid. Also, garbage man.

Unfortunately, I don't think they give tours of the fire department to people my age. I suppose I could always drive out to the city landfill. Ponder what might have been.

"Tell me, did you sail across the sun? Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded, and that heaven is overrated..."


  1. It's hard to entertain guests. The museum seems like a good idea.
    This post gave me an idea, you'd probably get rich opening a hot dog stand outside the Space and Rocket Museum, and along with catchup and mustard, have bar-b-cue sauce. You could call it Bar-b-cued Rockets. Your slogan could be "After all, nothing says Alabama like Bar-b-cued Rockets".

  2. lol...Oh my gosh, you are funny. Especially with the "Ideally, there would be a picture here" comment. :D You sound like me when I was a kid...I would NOT have gotten in that simulator, either. No way, no how.

    Redbud? Seriously...I'm impressed, Bone! *I had no idea what that tree was*

  3. Hey! Glad to meet another Alabama blogger! In my experience we're about as rare as the south Alabama wampus cats..
    Love the story and your writing. I grew up with a kid that, from the time we were 6, talked incessantly of being an astronaut. Ran into him recently after 25 years. Turns out he has a Ph.D. in astrophysics now and helped put that Rover thing on Mars! I thought that was so cool.

  4. You were a sensible kid, probably accounts for you now having that bit of that Benjamin Button thing going on? We'll be doing the home tour thing ourselves, in the summer, for a couple of Canadian fellow-bloggers (poor sods hacve NO idea what they are letting themselves in for - bwahahahah)! As our greatest claim to fame is as the either home of Thomas the Tank Engine, or the place where all the roads shut down for the annual carnage of the superbike races, it could go either way..

  5. Here's a tip Bone... you now have access to small children (nephew and god child) that you can take for a tour of the Fire Department. They LOVE talking to the kids about fire safety and letting them (and the adults) climb all over their equipment. Course you just have to be careful in case they need to run out for a fire...try to schedule such a trip during your wettest month of the year...cuz right now in my state is NOT such a good time (seen the news lately???)
    As for your space museum, you're right in that only holding interest for some folks. There's a Military & Space museum in hubby's home town and Darly has NO interest in that place at all. However we've been able to take her to the town's history museum twice...it's pretty cool and has pictures of hubby's ancestors in it as it is a VERY small town. :D

  6. MarkD60 - Yes, and if you find it difficult to entertain there, what chance do I have here?

    Sherri B - Thank you :) Yeah, that was just a little too close for comfort for my Earth-loving self.

    Well, I wasn't sure. So it was a redbud?!

    Edifice Rex - Yes, we are quite rare. Nice to meet ya!

    That is very cool. I wonder if he was the one in charge of making sure the simulators didn't accidentally take off :)

    Shrinky - Too sensible for my own good sometimes, I think. I have a Benjamin Button thing going on? Hmm, now that you mention it!

    Thomas the Tank Engine??? Well, I know which option my nephew would pick.

    Renee - *hitting myself in head* Why didn't I think of that? I gotta confess, it's really all about getting to turn on the siren and slide down the pole for me. Maybe I could also show them my suggestions for alternate routes, a la Kramer. "They just don't know what street to take!"

  7. I love that Little You was worried about the simulator taking off. It's the kind of thing that would have worried me too - I was the sort of child who insisted that my younger brother tried out fairground rides for safety before I'd even consider getting on them.

    I wanted to be lots of things when I was a little - a vet, a writer, a scientist... but more than anything, a post office clerk so that I could have shiny nails and stamp things behind a glass window. Children are peculiar creatures.

  8. http://www.visitusa.com/alabama/images/huntsvillepic.jpg

    I've never been there but.....am I too old for space camp?

  9. The fact that you were afraid to get in an old rocket reveals SO much about you.

  10. One summer I spent practically every day at the Space and Rocket Center because my BFF had a summer job there.
    The space food is actually quite tasty. Not any worse than MREs.
    I thought I had a picture of the Rockets but the best I could find was a screen shot of the NASA Channel.

    Cooper, I don't know if they still have it, but the Space and Rocket Center used to do Space Camp for Adults called Space Academy.

  11. I am now going to spend the next twenty minutes of my Friday night googling Alabama White BBQ Sauce. I'm crazy for regional bbq sauces.

    My daughter wants to go to that very space camp this summer (she got lucky, and we sent her to space camp last summer when we were still in Turkey), but I had to crush that dream, telling her, "To afford that camp, we'd have to sell you. Do you want to be sold?" Turns out she wants to be unsold, which is a clear indication of the kind of deep values this parent has successfully instilled in her pre-teen. "Don't be sold."

  12. J Adamthwaite - Just FYI, "Big Me" isn't too crazy about the thought either :)

    Postal clerk. That's interesting. Apparently I was drawn to jobs where I could ride around on the back of a big truck.

    Cooper - Yes, that's it! I walked right under that solid rocket booster.

    You know what they say, no one is too old for Space Camp...... Actually, that's only what I say. You'd probably want to check the website to find out what they say.

    Cami Smith - Yeah, I figure it'll probably come up in therapy someday.

    Xinh - I'm sure that was cool. I would have preferred to have a BFF that worked at Opryland. But oh well, that dream will never be realized.

    Jocelyn - I am now going to spend the next twenty minutes of my Friday night googling Alabama White BBQ Sauce.

    You're welcome :) By the way, did you find it? I could probably find a link for you.

    My parents never had to worry about that with me. (Wanting to go to Space Camp, that is. Not instilling deep values.)

  13. First what's white barbecue sauce? Can't believe nobody else asked that
    Garbageman? Unique cos every boy wants to be a fireman--it's in the DNA